Philosophy of Biology

Princeton University Press
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This is a concise, comprehensive, and accessible introduction to the philosophy of biology written by a leading authority on the subject. Geared to philosophers, biologists, and students of both, the book provides sophisticated and innovative coverage of the central topics and many of the latest developments in the field. Emphasizing connections between biological theories and other areas of philosophy, and carefully explaining both philosophical and biological terms, Peter Godfrey-Smith discusses the relation between philosophy and science; examines the role of laws, mechanistic explanation, and idealized models in biological theories; describes evolution by natural selection; and assesses attempts to extend Darwin's mechanism to explain changes in ideas, culture, and other phenomena. Further topics include functions and teleology, individuality and organisms, species, the tree of life, and human nature. The book closes with detailed, cutting-edge treatments of the evolution of cooperation, of information in biology, and of the role of communication in living systems at all scales.

Authoritative and up-to-date, this is an essential guide for anyone interested in the important philosophical issues raised by the biological sciences.

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About the author

Peter Godfrey-Smith is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author of Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science and Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Dec 20, 2013
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Pages
200
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ISBN
9781400850440
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / Political
Science / Life Sciences / Biology
Science / Philosophy & Social Aspects
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A sophisticated, original introduction to the philosophy of mathematics from one of its leading contemporary scholars

Mathematics is one of humanity's most successful yet puzzling endeavors. It is a model of precision and objectivity, but appears distinct from the empirical sciences because it seems to deliver nonexperiential knowledge of a nonphysical reality of numbers, sets, and functions. How can these two aspects of mathematics be reconciled? This concise book provides a systematic yet accessible introduction to the field that is trying to answer that question: the philosophy of mathematics.

Written by Øystein Linnebo, one of the world's leading scholars on the subject, the book introduces all of the classical approaches to the field, including logicism, formalism, intuitionism, empiricism, and structuralism. It also contains accessible introductions to some more specialized issues, such as mathematical intuition, potential infinity, the iterative conception of sets, and the search for new mathematical axioms. The groundbreaking work of German mathematician and philosopher Gottlob Frege, one of the founders of analytic philosophy, figures prominently throughout the book. Other important thinkers whose work is introduced and discussed include Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, David Hilbert, Kurt Gödel, W. V. Quine, Paul Benacerraf, and Hartry H. Field.

Sophisticated but clear and approachable, this is an essential introduction for all students and teachers of philosophy, as well as mathematicians and others who want to understand the foundations of mathematics.

How does science work? Does it tell us what the world is "really" like? What makes it different from other ways of understanding the universe? In Theory and Reality, Peter Godfrey-Smith addresses these questions by taking the reader on a grand tour of one hundred years of debate about science. The result is a completely accessible introduction to the main themes of the philosophy of science.

Intended for undergraduates and general readers with no prior background in philosophy, Theory and Reality covers logical positivism; the problems of induction and confirmation; Karl Popper's theory of science; Thomas Kuhn and "scientific revolutions"; the views of Imre Lakatos, Larry Laudan, and Paul Feyerabend; and challenges to the field from sociology of science, feminism, and science studies. The book then looks in more detail at some specific problems and theories, including scientific realism, the theory-ladeness of observation, scientific explanation, and Bayesianism. Finally, Godfrey-Smith defends a form of philosophical naturalism as the best way to solve the main problems in the field.

Throughout the text he points out connections between philosophical debates and wider discussions about science in recent decades, such as the infamous "science wars." Examples and asides engage the beginning student; a glossary of terms explains key concepts; and suggestions for further reading are included at the end of each chapter. However, this is a textbook that doesn't feel like a textbook because it captures the historical drama of changes in how science has been conceived over the last one hundred years.

Like no other text in this field, Theory and Reality combines a survey of recent history of the philosophy of science with current key debates in language that any beginning scholar or critical reader can follow.
Although mammals and birds are widely regarded as the smartest creatures on earth, it has lately become clear that a very distant branch of the tree of life has also sprouted higher intelligence: the cephalopods, consisting of the squid, the cuttlefish, and above all the octopus. In captivity, octopuses have been known to identify individual human keepers, raid neighboring tanks for food, turn off lightbulbs by spouting jets of water, plug drains, and make daring escapes. How is it that a creature with such gifts evolved through an evolutionary lineage so radically distant from our own? What does it mean that evolution built minds not once but at least twice? The octopus is the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien. What can we learn from the encounter?

In Other Minds, Peter Godfrey-Smith, a distinguished philosopher of science and a skilled scuba diver, tells a bold new story of how subjective experience crept into being—how nature became aware of itself. As Godfrey-Smith stresses, it is a story that largely occurs in the ocean, where animals first appeared. Tracking the mind’s fitful development, Godfrey-Smith shows how unruly clumps of seaborne cells began living together and became capable of sensing, acting, and signaling. As these primitive organisms became more entangled with others, they grew more complicated. The first nervous systems evolved, probably in ancient relatives of jellyfish; later on, the cephalopods, which began as inconspicuous mollusks, abandoned their shells and rose above the ocean floor, searching for prey and acquiring the greater intelligence needed to do so. Taking an independent route, mammals and birds later began their own evolutionary journeys.

But what kind of intelligence do cephalopods possess? Drawing on the latest scientific research and his own scuba-diving adventures, Godfrey-Smith probes the many mysteries that surround the lineage. How did the octopus, a solitary creature with little social life, become so smart? What is it like to have eight tentacles that are so packed with neurons that they virtually “think for themselves”? What happens when some octopuses abandon their hermit-like ways and congregate, as they do in a unique location off the coast of Australia?

By tracing the question of inner life back to its roots and comparing human beings with our most remarkable animal relatives, Godfrey-Smith casts crucial new light on the octopus mind—and on our own.

El libro del año para mentes curiosas, lo más parecido a un encuentro alienígena.

«Una fabulosa mezcla de encuentros a lo Cousteau con cefalópodos, apasionantes discusiones científicas y reflexión filosófica. Maravillosamente escrito, estimulante y audaz.»
Olivia Judson, The Atlantic

En una rama muy distante de la nuestra en el árbol de las especies surgió otra mente elevada: la de los cefalópodos. Pero, ¿qué clase de inteligencia poseen estos animales? ¿Cómo desarrolló tal inteligencia el pulpo, criatura de escasa vida social y longevidad de apenas dos años?

Otras mentes es una nueva y audaz historia de cómo la naturaleza se hizo consciente de sí misma, un relato que transcurre en gran medida en el mar. Peter Godfrey-Smith, distinguido filósofo de la ciencia y hábil buceador, describe sus impresionantes encuentros con octópodos y las travesuras perpetradas por pulpos cautivos al tiempo que traza el asombroso viaje evolutivo de los cefalópodos, una ruta alejada de la que más tarde tomaríamos los mamíferos. Una inmersión profunda y excepcionalmente reveladora en los orígenes de la experiencia subjetiva.

Críticas:
«El tema es tan asombroso que es difícil no sentirse seducido, como le pasó al propio autor cuando le extendió una mano a un pulpo y éste se acercó para devolverle el toque, en clara señal de interés.»
Irene Wanner, The Seattle Times

«Fascinante. Después de leer este libro, parafraseando a Byron, "no amarás menos al hombre, sino más a los cefalópodos".»
Callum Roberts, The Washington Post

«El filósofo Godfrey-Smith combina hábilmente ciencia, filosofía y sus propias experiencias nadando entre estos animales tentaculares para iluminar el origen y la naturaleza de la conciencia.»
The Economist

«Godfrey-Smith se ha impuesto un doble reto: por un lado, recoger todo lo que sabemos sobre la conducta y el conocimiento de los pulpos y, por otro, mostrar por qué esta información es a su vez un reto de cara a nuestra concepción filosófica y científica de la mente. El resultado es de lo más convincente.»
Science

«Si esto es filosofía, funciona. Godfrey-Smith es uno de esos filósofos que buscan pistas en el mundo. Sabio y curioso, nunca resulta dogmático y es sorprendentemente agudo.»
Carl Safina, The New York Times Book Review

«Godfrey-Smith enlaza hábilmente historia evolutiva y biología con los debates filosóficos más amplios sobre la naturaleza.»
Nick Romeo, The Chicago Tribune

«Una magistral combinación de historia natural, filosofía y curiosidad. De lectura obligada para cualquier persona interesada en la evolución de la mente.»
Jennifer Ackerman, autora de El ingenio de los pájaros

«Una deslumbrante muestra de la mejor pop science. Increíblemente revelador y divertido.»
Meehan Crist, Los Angeles Times

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